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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Experiences, memberships and even practical gifts can take the place of last year’s toys.
  • Holiday gifts can also be used to plan for the future or encourage generosity.

Time to Read

3 minutes

The holidays are coming. And whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or another festive occasion, one of the best parts is...presents! Yes, it’s easy to log on to Amazon® for the year’s hottest board games or gadgets. But there are lots of non-toy gift ideas and stocking stuffers that offer a lot of fun and aren’t too hard on your piggy bank. Here’s a gift guide to get started:

Experience Gifts

Not every Christmas gift comes in a box. Even a 2-year-old can have fun at, say, a children’s museum, and kids of all ages love to play family members at mini-golf (and maybe win!). A fun way to engage more grown-up kids might be a cooking class, which can offer gift cards or gift certificates to open Christmas morning. Less costly experience gifts might be movie tickets, a trip to the ice cream parlor or a special “tea party” with dress-up clothes for an imaginative young host or hostess.

Subscriptions and Subscription Boxes

Kids love mail, so their very own magazine subscription can be a perfect gift. From Disney and stickers to video games and sports, there are magazines for all ages. Also consider a subscription box. From craft supplies for little ones to science kits for older kids, there’s a hands-on box for every interest and for the whole family that can come right to your door.

Practical Gifts

Kids may not love getting socks or a toothbrush as a Christmas gift, but practical gifts can still be fun. A sleeping bag can lead to an adventure; an alarm clock might also stream music; and real craftsman tools might help an older kid become a DIY expert.


A membership is a great gift that sends kids on adventures all year long, whether it’s to the zoo, a Lego park, a gymnastics studio or a skating rink. Not only do they usually include unlimited outings, but memberships can also offer perks like behind-the-scenes tours, discounts or even special event occasions such as sleepovers at a museum.

Good Deeds

Some of the best non-toy gifts help kids make the world a better place. Depending on a child’s interest, a simple donation to a charity in his or her name might do. But, for a more fun gift, let the child make a choice about what and how to give. Older kids might like to give to a group like Kiva, where they can help choose someone to receive a business microloan. And, even preschoolers can understand how a donation to Heifer International will give a village in another country clean water or a cow for milk. 

529 Educational Savings Accounts1

You can invest in a child's future by putting money toward tuition and certain educational expenses in a tax-advantaged account like a 529 Plan. This savings account can be used for eligible college expenses or even private K-12 tuition

With a little creativity, a holiday gift can be a memorable one. It might even start a new tradition.

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. Plan ahead. Experiences are available year-round, so whether it’s tracking concert calendars or activity registration dates, they may need to be purchased ahead of your usual holiday shopping.
  2. Keep a list. Gift ideas don’t always come when you need them. Keep a list on your phone or computer throughout the year so you can jot down ideas as soon as you have them.  
  3. Set a budget. Holidays are stressful; set a budget so you have clear guardrails, and you can enjoy gift giving without worrying about the impact to finances later. Unsure how much you can spend? Talk to a Navy Federal personal finance counselor to review your expenses and build a budget.


1Navy Federal Financial Group, LLC (NFFG) is a licensed insurance agency. Nondeposit investments, brokerage and advisory products are only sold through Navy Federal Investment Services, LLC (NFIS), a member of FINRA/SIPC and an SEC-registered investment advisory firm. NFIS is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFFG. Insurance products are offered through NFFG and NFIS. These products are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guaranteed or obligations of Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), are not offered, recommended, sanctioned or encouraged by the Federal Government, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Deposit products and related services are provided by NFCU. Financial Advisors are employees of NFFG, and they are employees and registered representatives of NFIS. NFIS and NFFG are affiliated companies under the common control of NFCU. Call 1-877-221-8108 for further information. Navy Mutual Aid Association, Covr Financial Technologies, LLC / MFG Group, Inc., and TruStage Insurance are not owned by Navy Federal Financial Group, LLC or Navy Federal Credit Union. Life insurance coverages are written through non-affiliated insurance companies. Trust Services available through MEMBERS Trust Company. 1-855-358-7878.

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This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.